Back when I was a kid, the fare served at Kentucky Fried Chicken (known today as KFC) came in a bucket. In the bucket was, well, fried chicken, not unlike the kind Mom served for dinner on many Sundays. She, of course, had no secret recipe.
I've maybe dined on Kentucky Fried Chicken five or six times. Period. I've never lived in a community that features the restaurant.
Since I'm not real familiar with this franchise, I have to admit I'm a bit puzzled.
Why would you invent a sandwich without bread?
That's what the new KFC Double Down chicken sandwich, which made a splash on the Internet and television news recently, essentially is.
With this "sandwich," KFC has replaced bread with two slabs of fried chicken. In between the chicken is pepper-infused cheese and bacon and a slathering of a mayonnaise-based sauce.
It is, for all intents and purposes, not something that you will find served at a finely appointed table, adorned with a white linen tablecloth and fine china and crystal.
It is not something to savor.
It is, it appears, simply a blob of grease to devour while driving your car.
That has to be what KFC had in mind, as it tweaked its business plan and had its "nutritionists" and "chefs" perfect this newest introduction to America's world of fast food.
Unlike fried chicken, where your hands get greasy and would make your steering wheel a bit slippery, thus making your car a bit difficult to control, you can steer with one hand and stuff this sandwich in your face with the other.
With no pesky bones littering your automobile's interior.
The one thing KFC evidently didn't have in mind was the health of the men, women, and children who will eat this thing.
The "Original Recipe" version of the Double Down stacks up at 540 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 1,380 milligrams of sodium. Anyone opting for the Double Down Combo Meal will consume 1,000 calories, 45 grams of fat, and 2,120 milligrams of sodium.
To put this in perspective, in terms we are a bit more familiar with, since Vermillion isn't home to a KFC, let's compare this chicken "sandwich" (when you hear "chicken" you would assume this would be a healthy alternative to typical fast food fare) to a Big Mac.
Nutritionally, the two items are virtually the same. Eat a Big Mac, and you consume 590 calories. The Double Down offers 540 calories.
Your digestive system must tackle 34 grams of fat when you finish a Big Mac. When you swallow your last bite of a Double Down, you will have filled your stomach with 32 grams of fat.
A Big Mac has 1,070 milligrams of sodium. The Double Down has 1,390 milligrams of sodium.
In other words, anyone who eats this newest gastrointestinal delight isn't doing himself or herself any favors.
The sandwich ironically was introduced at about the same time Vermillion native and Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ben Leber visited Jolley Elementary to urge our community's kids to drink water and get outside and simply play instead of sitting in front of a TV all day.
It's a message that, unfortunately, is truly needed to be heard by kids throughout South Dakota.
According to the South Dakota Department of Health, the percentage of South Dakota students who are overweight or obese rose slightly in the state's latest school height and weight survey. For the 2008-2009 school year, 33.6 percent of students were either overweight (17 percent) or obese (16.6 percent). That compares to 33.1 percent of students who were overweight or obese in the 2007-2008 school year.
"We know that kids who are overweight or obese are at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, liver disorders and other complications," said Kristin Biskeborn, state nutritionist for the Department of Health. "That's why it's disappointing to see even a small increase in the rates. Schools, parents, communities – we all have a lot of work to do if we're going to reduce child obesity and its health risks for our children."
This information isn't exactly "news." It's a problem that is growing across the nation. The dimension of the childhood obesity problem is reaching a supersize proportion, compelling the NFL and Ben Leber and First Lady Michelle Obama and countless other individuals and organizations concerned with our young people and their expanding girths to try to reign them in when it comes to their eating habits.
And KFC? Well, with the introduction of this new sandwich, they've launched a marketing campaign that capitalizes on our worst impulse – the impulse to simply not care what we eat. To throw convention to the wind. You know those times, when you get up in the morning, and say to yourself, "Why play it safe with a healthy salad for lunch when I can make my digestive system go into overdrive by eating a Double Down?"
It is analogous to responding to ever-rising gas prices by purchasing a brand new Hummer. They don't make Hummers anymore. Let's hope the Double Down experiences a similar fate.